By Emilia Discher
Wheaton Warrenville South
The eighth annual Pepsi Showdown, the largest high school boys soccer showcase in the United States, wrapped up Sunday with an exciting championship game between Libertyville and Lyons Township at Toyota Park, home of the Fire.
After two weeks, 80 games and more than 1,000 players, the tournament ended with a bang, a high-energy matchup between the Libertyville Wildcats (10-1) and the Lyons Township Lions (5-3-2). The Wildcats walked away victorious 2-1 in overtime.
Both teams were playing at a high level, but things really started to kick up a notch about 25 minutes into the game. That’s when Libertyville adjusted their formation to adapt to a field that was wider than normal for high school field. The Wildcats were the aggressors for the rest of the game.
Libertyville’s David Ruiz was the first to score with a service by Sam Kaplan. However, the Lions followed with a goal less than a minute later. Lyons’ Elliot Borge headed in a goal with an assist by teammate Thomas Brannen.
Only two minutes into overtime, Lyons captain Elliot Borge collided with Libertyville captain Marshall Hollingsworth. This took Hollingsworth out for the rest of the game and left Lyons down a man when Borge was given a red card.
The Wildcats’ aggressive strategy paid off with a last-minute, winning goal by senior captain Adam Witucki. “We started moving it well and saw they were getting tired, so then we attacked,” he said about his goal in the 89th minute. For Witucki, who usually is a defender, the game-winner was his first goal of the season.
Kaplan said Lyons was easily the best team they’ve played all year. The feeling was mutual for Lyons senior defender Matt Thomas. “They just went harder and they did a good job of that,” Thomas said.
The players weren’t the only energetic ones on Sunday; their fans followed suit. The student sections were packed with teens dressed in school colors, yelling and blowing on noisemakers. A couple of Lyons students even dressed up as a banana and a gorilla. “[We're] always here, always supporting the team,” said Lyons senior Blake Kopach, who wore the banana suit.
The student fans recognized how big this game was. Libertyville senior Molly White and her friends traveled for more than an hour to get to the game. “There’s really great team chemistry,” she said. “When watching the sport, everything is always moving around you. … You feel like you’re right there with them.”
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